2014 International Fire/EMS Safety and Health Week

Issue 5 and Volume 9.

Starting with the original Safety Stand Down in 2005, which took place the third week of June, this year’s International Fire/EMS Safety and Health Week (June 15–21) is dedicated to raising awareness of the health- and safety-related issues that are injuring and killing firefighters and other emergency responders.

In 2013, the number of firefighters who died in the line of duty rose—reversing a trend of declining numbers over the past few years. Injury rates do not appear to be declining, and long-term health and exposure issues continue to plague us. To help combat these specific issues, the 2014 Fire/EMS Safety and Health Week provides a forum for you and your agency to discuss these issues at length and what can be done to mitigate or prevent them.

The theme for this year’s Safety and Health Week—Train Like You Fight—is meant to reinforce and solidify the idea that it’s an absolute necessity to make training a top priority if we want to increase the health and safety of all responders. The IAFC and the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC), both sponsors of Safety and Health Week, are encouraging all responders and agencies to not only commit to this annual event, but to focus training activities around this year’s theme, which will focus on two specific areas: 1) safety on the training ground to reduce training-related injuries and deaths, and 2) the importance of adequate training to prepare for safe fireground operations.

Although it goes without saying, firefighters and other responders must make a commitment to training. All personnel must be aware that training needs to be taken seriously and conducted with a specific end result in mind: increasing our skill and competency levels so that we can be more effective and efficient on the fireground, which will lead to an increased level of safety. This year’s Fire/EMS Safety and Health Week allows us the opportunity to re-engage in our commitment to safe training and safe operations. Tip: All organizations are encouraged to use the planning tools and resources that can be found at Agencies are encouraged to schedule events or training drills to regularly engage personnel, which will help spread and reinforce the message of Safety and Health Week throughout the organization.

This week will also help agencies engage personnel in finding solutions to safety issues within their agency. “Engaging the members is a great way to gather feedback on our overall safety programming and receive input on how we incorporate new ideas to reduce risk,” says Rick Kline, fire chief for the Plymouth (Minn.) Fire Department, one of many agencies that actively participates in Safety and Health Week. The opportunity to review safety policies, NIOSH case studies, or near-miss reports can start a dialogue within your agency, which may lead to safety-related changes and/or improvements.

Although firefighting is an inherently risky vocation, you have the power to increase overall operational safety for yourself and your agency. The fire services owes it to its personnel to keep them as safe as possible while performing their jobs—but it’s important to remember that safety is also paramount to successful training operations. “Train Like You Fight” is meant to reinforce the critical nature of training and how it relates to your overall health and safety. Please do your part and help spread the word so that the 2014 International Fire/EMS Safety and Health Week makes a true, lasting difference in your agency.